It is 10-58 and the sky is still alight with hues of lemon and blue merging into one from my skylight window. Against this backdrop I draw deep breaths and feel my heart and lungs inflate with gratitude for the week that has been.
It has been a busy one for SWB. Normally I pootle about; write; do some light cleaning (VERY LIGHT, I hear the Mothership say) and then act as a slave to my off-spring from 2pm onwards. But as the term has drawn to a close, social engagements come in droves, and some work has been thrown my way. And then, just as I was starting to exhale, I got a call to ask if I would do a recording for THE TELEVISION. Can I just say, if you ever want to feel over-awed, sit round a table with comedian Colin Murphy, Alan Meban, aka Alan in Belfast, and Gemma-Louise Bond, aka That Belfast Girl, and pretend that you have something to add to the discussion.
Alan is a blogger, a social commentator and a damn fine chair at Slugger O’Toole events. He’s politically astute, seemingly unflappable and trains people in how to manage social media.
Gemma Louise is 26 and blogs about fashion, food and lifestyle. Her website is polished and she has thousands of followers, with girls anxious to emulate her style and make-up. She works in PR which shows in her easy manner and confidence on camera; or maybe she’s just a natural. Whatever it is, the girl’s got sass, and I like her. She would be fun on a night out, and indeed I hear that she is.
Being filmed for the telly is nerve-wracking, regardless of how lovely your director and fellow panellists may be. It didn’t help that it was the hottest day of the year. The sweat ran in steady rivulets down my back, and every time I shifted in my seat I was sure I heard a squelch. Prior to filming, I’d eaten a filet of salmon a day past its use-by date. Nerves, heat and potentially dodgy fish do not make for comfortable guts, and mine aren’t well-behaved at the best of times. ‘Please God,’ I prayed, ‘don’t let me have to run, microphone trailing, for a dose of the skits.’
So there I was, willing my innards to play ball, when the chat started.
‘Helen what do you do blog about then?’ asked Conor.
‘Well, myself mainly, and my life, and any significant events that happen, in my life, to me. So basically, my blog is about me. And sustainability. I love a bit of recycling.’
‘So, you’re a narcissist then Helen?’
‘Ahh no. It’s just that I’ve no interest in anything else, for example popular culture, or make-up or any of that malarky. No, I write about me, and how writing has been a most cathartic for me, in helping me work out who I am, and what I do and how I tick.’
‘Hmmmm,’ says everyone round the table.
‘Upon reflection, Colin, you may be correct. I’m narcissism personified.’
‘So it would seem Helen.’
I felt like a right turnip.
But what could I say? My blog is more a less a journal about my life, and it has helped me figure out a few deep truths. By blogging regularly, I force myself to create more content, and hopefully develop my style.
However, I’m 39 and I’m late to this game. There is a whole technical vocabulary out there of which I’m unaware, and as we talk about the impact of laying our lives out for scrutiny and the digital footprint we’ll leave behind, I do wonder what I’m playing at. I’m not very circumspect; I don’t have a filter and maybe I need to cultivate one. Gemma Louise has pluck and nonchalance and seems to ‘get’ how these things work. But the conversation makes me question myself. What DO I want to achieve? What am I trying to sell? Me? My lifestyle? And have I become one of those ‘fake people’ who ‘curates’ a life on-line that bears little resemblance to reality?
So, when in doubt, I turn to the Stoics. I find them a helpful bunch. And last night when I came in, my husband, although the poor fecker was trying to sleep, handed me his copy of ‘The Daily Stoic.’ Read May 2nd he mumbled. And what words of wisdom there were within.
‘First tell yourself what kind of person you want to be, then do what you have to do,’ said Epictetus. In order to do this we need to: ‘spend some time- real, uninterrupted time, thinking about what’s important to you, what your priorities are.’
What good advice. The truth is, I’ve been ‘test-driving’ a new life for a while and I’ve been avoiding doing some serious thinking about what I really want to achieve.
So what do I want? Well wouldn’t it just be delightful if a nice publisher came along and read my blog and said, ‘Isn’t this just great? I’ll just collate that neatly for you, sort an agent and we’ll have a lovely book, ‘Ruminations from a Sour Wee Bastard’, ready to hit the shelves by December 1st for the Christmas rush. How does that sound Helen?’
‘That’ll do well thanks,’ I would reply. ‘Now where’s the Bollinger?’
Since I don’t live in a fairy-tale world, I may have to get off my rear end and make this happen. Blogging has been a wonderful medium for making me write and overcome my inhibitions. It has also opened up opportunities for me. I never thought the phone would ring and someone would ask ME to go on the telly and ask my opinion. And feck me, as I have discovered, television, is scary. Those people who make it look easy, well I applaud them.
So tonight, instead of feeling rubbish because I’m knackered and frankly feel a bit intimidated by the big world out there, I’m going to feel grateful for the opportunities that my new life has afforded me.
Life is by turns funny and absurd and mercurial, but since I’ve decided to throw my road map out the window, I better learn to enjoy it, and learn along the way. Thanks for joining me on the ride everyone: it means a lot.